Energy In Depth

How a Judge Scrapped Pennsylvania Families' $4.24M Water Pollution Verdict in Gas Drilling Lawsuit

Ely family

For many residents of Carter Road in Dimock, Pennsylvania, it's been nearly a decade since their lives were turned upside down by the arrival of Cabot Oil and Gas, a company whose Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) wells were plagued by a series of spills and other problems linked to the area's contamination of drinking water supplies.

With a new federal court ruling handed down late last Friday, a judge unwound a unanimous eight-person jury which had ordered Cabot to pay a total of $4.24 million over the contamination of two of those families' drinking water wells. In a 58 page ruling, Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson discarded the jury's verdict in Ely v. Cabot and ordered a new trial, extending the legal battle over one of the highest-profile and longest-running fracking-related water contamination cases in the country.

Congressional Energy and Climate Committees Are Loaded with Ex-Fossil Fuel Lobbyists

U.S. Capitol building

Though the U.S. Congress has been in session for two months, much of the policy action which has taken place since Donald Trump assumed the presidency on January 20 has centered around his Executive Orders.

As some have pointed out, Trump's first speech in front of a joint session of Congress on February 28 can be seen as a reset moment, with the clock ticking on Republicans to deliver on promises made to voters in the 2016 election. In the energy and environment sphere, those efforts will likely center around gutting climate and environmental protections, and much of it will be carried out by congressional committee staffers. 

A DeSmog investigation has revealed that many Republican staff members on key committees are former fossil fuel industry lobbyists, which could help fast-track the industry's legislative agenda in the weeks and months ahead. In total, 15 staffers on the eight main energy and environment congressional committees previously worked as industry lobbyists on behalf of oil, gas, mining, coal, petrochemical, and electric utility interests. 

Trump Names Industry Lobbyist and Climate Science Denier Mike Catanzaro as Top White House Energy Aide

Mike Catanzaro

GreenWire has reported that climate change denier Mike Catanzaro — a lobbyist for oil and gas companies Noble Energy, Devon Energy, Encana Oil and GasAmerican Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), and Hess Corporation — will soon become a top energy policy aide for President Donald Trump

Catanzaro's lobbying disclosure forms for quarter four of 2016 serve as a potential preview of energy policy to come from the Trump White House. During that quarter, Catanzaro lobbied against U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) methane regulations, against U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement offshore drilling regulations, and for oil and gas development on U.S. public lands. 

As DeSmog has reported, Catanzaro served as a top energy aide during Trump's presidential campaign. According to GreenWire, he is expected to serve as special assistant to Trump for energy and environmental issues under the umbrella of the White House National Economic Council.

Fracking Fans Use Intelligence Report to Revive Baseless Claim Russia Funds U.S. Anti-Fracking Movement

Proponents of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) have seized upon a paragraph found within the recent national intelligence report examining Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. elections to push a long-promoted but unfounded claim: that Russia and President Vladimir Putin fund the U.S. anti-fracking movement.

Koch Industries and Fracking Lobbyist Mike Catanzaro To Lead Trump Energy Team

The Washington Post has reported that Mike Catanzaro, a former senior energy staffer for Republican Party House Majority Leader John Boehner with a track record of climate change denial, will lead Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump's energy transition team. 

Catanzaro now works as a partner at the lobbying firm CGCN, where his clients include Noble Energy, Koch Industries, EnCana Oil and Gas, HalliburtonDevon Energy and others. For those clients, he lobbies on issues such as pushing for more drilling on public lands on behalf of EnCana, against emissions regulations for drilling onshore and offshore wells on public lands for Hess Corporation and Devon, and for offshore drilling in Israel on behalf of Noble Energy. 

Obama Admin Quietly Enables Oil and Gas Drilling on Public Lands and Waters, Weakens Endangered Species Act

Offshore oil platform.

As eyes turned to the most viewed presidential debate in U.S. history, the Obama administration meanwhile quietly auctioned off thousands of acres of land for oil and gas drilling in national forests, opened up 119 million acres for offshore drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico, and delivered a blow to the Endangered Species Act. 

Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?

Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) — the controversial horizontal drilling technique used to extract oil and gas in shale basins around the U.S. and the world — has sat at the center of the debate over the Democratic Party's draft platform set for a vote at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) convention in Philadelphia July 25-28.

That platform was drafted and debated by a 15-member committee, with four members chosen by DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, five by Bernie Sanders and six by presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. After a fracking moratorium clause failed in a 7-6 vote at the DNC Platform Committee meeting held in St. Louis, Missouri from June 24-25, an amendment calling for President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan not to incentivize fracked gas power plants also did not pass at the July 8-9 DNC Platform Committee meeting held in Orlando, Florida.

A DeSmog investigation has revealed that two members of the committee chosen by Hillary Clinton work for a consulting, lobbying and investment firm with a financial stake in fracking. Those members — Carol Browner and Wendy Sherman — work for Albright Stonebridge Group. Clinton campaign energy policy adviser Trevor Houser, who introduced a regulate fracking amendment (introduced as a counter to the one calling for a ban) also has industry ties via his now-defunct fellowship* at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.  

How IOGCC Spawned the Lawsuit That Just Overturned BLM Fracking Regulations on Public Lands

In a ruling on the Obama Administration's proposed regulations of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on U.S. public lands, U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming Judge Scott Skavdahl — a President Obama appointee — struck down the rules as an illegal violation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. 

Filed in March 2015 by first the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and Western Energy Alliance and then the State of Wyoming (soon joined by North Dakota, Utah and Colorado), the industry and state lawsuits would soon thereafter merge into a single lawsuit. The merger symbolizes the origins of the lawsuit — the 2014 Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

Top Hillary Clinton Campaign Fundraiser Lobbies for Offshore Drilling in Israel

Jackson Dunn, a lobbyist employed by FTI Consulting subsidiary FTI Government Affairs and a top-level campaign finance bundler for Hillary Clinton's presidential run, lobbied throughout 2014 and 2015 for offshore drilling off the coast of Israel on behalf of Noble Energy

The finding by DeSmog comes days after an irritated Clinton told an activist for Greenpeace USA, that she was “so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me” with regards to her coziness to lobbyists and fossil fuel campaign cash.

Dunn, according to his FTI biography, formerly worked for the Bill Clinton White House as the point man for the “business community’s support of President Clinton’s economic and trade agenda.”

NaturalGasNow.org, Run by Former Energy in Depth Staffer Tom Shepstone, Derides "Gasland" Sociology Study

The American Sociological Review will publish a study in its October edition linking the documentary film “Gasland” to social movements inspired by it that have arisen in opposition to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) since the film was released in 2010. 

Titled “'No Fracking Way!' Documentary Film, Discursive Opportunity, and Local Opposition against Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States, 2010-2013,” the study concludes that “screenings of Gasland in different locations had an effect upon the mobilization of local campaigns against the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing; in turn, those local mobilizations made local policymakers significantly more likely to take action to ban the practice of fracking.” 

Fracking industry  front groups such as Natural Gas Now and Energy in Depth (EID) responded by attacking the study's subject: “Gasland.” 

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